No celebration, just hard work

2013-05-04 00:00

COMRADES winner Ludwick Mamabolo was born in Limpopo in April 1977 and changed from being a soccer player to a runner in late 1999.

He has a long pedigree of sport as his father was a quality sprinter and his grandfather, Titus Mamabolo, was one of the world’s top marathoners in his day.

In 2002, Mamabolo ran and won his first marathon in Port Elizabeth. In 2003 he set the course record for the Old Mutual Om Die Dam 50 km in two hours and 49 minutes.

The record still stands and that was the year he graduated with a BCom.

His debut at Comrades came in 2010 where his late charge saw him carve through the field to second position. A year later, on the up run, he placed seventh. Last year on Sunday 3 June Mamabolo became the first South African to win Comrades since Sipho Ngomane in 2005.

Only days later the euphoria of the win was shattered when he was informed that he had tested positive for MHA in his post race urine sample. On Tuesday this week, after an 11 month period of suspension and hearings, Mamabolo was totally cleared of the charges against him.

This has paved the way for him to return to the Pietermaritzburg to Durban road in his Bedfordview running club colours.

Here are 15 questions with the 2012 Comrades champion:

What does it mean to you to be back and cleared?

It means the world to me to know that my name has been cleared. I really want the sport to benefit from what has happened.

How do you feel about those people who say that you got off on a technicality, and that you are a cheat and they will always regard you as a lucky cheat?

I have maintained my innocence from the beginning and my running achievements, not only in Comrades, speak for themselves and show I was not lucky.

What is the lowest moment you faced in this 11 month struggle?

The beginning, being accused of cheating was probably the worst moment. It was a huge blow, but I have faith that what happens in real life, a purpose and as a professional athlete I kept on running. I never gave up on my schedule and was always busy training.

It was very hard training when I did not know when I would be able to get back, but I never felt that I would not be able to compete again.

Losing my contract and sponsorship was very hard as that is my income and I have a family and two boys of seven and 10 to look after.

How did you hear about the allegations in June and where were you?

I only heard from a friend who sent me an SMS while I was at a Nike conference in Melrose Arch.

The official notification came the next day when I was called to the Athletics South Africa office.

What was your reaction?

Complete shock and disbelief. I could not understand what was happening but I knew there had to be a reason for this.

What has been your family

reaction to the news?

They never ever believed the dug story and have always supported me through this very testing time.

My wife gave me unbelievable support and I cannot express in any words but I will be forever thankful.

Where were you on Tuesday afternoon when you heard the outcome of the case?

I was up in Limpopo and was so relieved and excited with the news.

I immediately shared it with my wife and my pastor then phoned some friends before driving down to Kempton Park for a training session and to discuss things with my friends and supporters here [in Johannesburg].

Do you have any advice for South African runners from this experience?

Yes. Please, make sure you know what the procedures are and get to know as much as possible as to what is allowed or not allowed.

Do you think that enough is being done to educate people about the details and processes for anti-doping? Is there something you can suggest?

No I don’t think enough is being done, but I think a good place to start is with the clubs in SA.

If you had not had such a loyal support group and the legal benefits of Werkmans pro bono approach to the case would you have been able to handle this?

No, to Werksmans I owe so much and I am forever grateful for their assistance. They have done everything possible to support me. It was a privilege to be able to run from February [when there was a provisional uplifting of his suspension while the case continued], and they have followed through to the end.

Are you considering suing SAIDS, Athletics or others now that you have been cleared?

No. For me it is not about the money. It is about clearing my name and the sport. I just want to be able to run and to compete to enjoy my running and earn a living as a professional runner. I hope that this has highlighted problem and that people realise it is a two-way street.

I hope this [case] will make things better for athletes and that corrections will be made.

Do you think that other athletes tested at the last Comrades may benefit from this judgment which has highlighted a number of contraventions of International Standards and anti-doping rules were they to have the benefit of legal representation?

Absolutely. If nothing else it will teach athletes that they can’t rely on other people to educate them about the rules that apply. They have to do all that they can to take extra steps to make sure they don’t suffer the same prejudice that I suffered.

Do you feel you can be ready for the 2013 Comrades given that you only returned to competition in February?

We always have to respect Comrades for what it is. I will do the best that I can and I am looking forward to it.

Do you have any races scheduled for before Comrades?

I go back to Limpopo to complete my Comrades preparation and will only come back closer to the race.

There is a 10 km race that I will probably use as a measure of my fitness prior to Comrades.

Do you have any celebrations planned now that you have been totally cleared of charges?

No. Right now and for the next four weeks my focus is Comrades. This is what I do and this is what I have been wanting to do so that’s my first and only priority.

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